Hugh Marvin Tiner, the founding dean of Pepperdine College and its second president, was born on a small farm near La Vernia, Texas. Among his school chums was Hubert Derrick, who remembers Tiner as a shy boy, even during his undergraduate years at Abilene Christian College.
"People were amazed with what he accomplished in California," recalls Derrick, Pepperdine's legendary tennis coach.
Tiner completed his master's degree in education at Stanford University, returned to Texas to take former Abilene coed Lola Lammey as his bride, then moved to California to find a teaching position. He was hired by the Lynwood School District and eventually moved up the administrative ranks to become assistant superintendent. In 1934, he was appointed supervisor for Los Angeles County Schools, one of the youngest men in the nation in that capacity.
Spending Sundays as minister of the Sichel Street Church of Christ, an ambitious Hugh Tiner started a Sunday morning radio program, "Take Time to Be Holy." George Pepperdine happened to be one of his many listeners, and made arrangements to meet the captivating educator and minister. Impressed with the man and his credentials, Mr. Pepperdine appointed Tiner as one of the five founding members of the future college's board. Enthused by the prospect, Tiner gave up his work with Los Angeles County schools to help launch the college.
Pepperdine and Tiner wooed Batsell Baxter from David Lipscomb College to serve as the founding president, with Tiner as dean. Full accreditation was awarded the young college just seven months later. When Baxter returned to Tennessee, Tiner was the likely administrator to succeed him. Pepperdine College was but two years old when young Tiner took the helm in 1939. Fanfare surrounding his appointment was trumpeted beyond California, and in 1940, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named him "Outstanding Young Man of the Year."
During 1940, the roofs of Pepperdine campus buildings were being painted a muted green, a pre-war camouflage that dramatically neutralized the Los Angeles cityscape. Undaunted, Tiner kept spirits high, organizing picnics, intramural football games, and a memorable wiener roast at which he performed magic tricks before an adoring student audience. In 1945, amid the rigors of his presidency and the twilight of World War II, Tiner completed work on his Ph.D. degree at the University of Southern California.
By all accounts, there was a great esprit de corps among Dr. Tiner, the faculty, and students. He reportedly never forgot a name, never turned a student away for lack of tuition funds, and never missed a Waves' athletic event. He awarded scholarships as freely as he gave away grins, and was an unabashed crusader in encouraging foreign students to enroll. He was succeeded as president in 1957 by M. Norvel Young, but remained active in civic groups and the ministry. Until his death on January 8, 1981, he was revered as a Pepperdine Life Regent and continued to serve as minister for the Uptown Church of Christ in Long Beach.